What are we, as Catholic parents, willing to do to save our kids? Believe it or not, the ease with which we deal with our children’s lives formed its roots when we were dating our prospective spouse. I don’t know about you readers but my top priority all those years ago wasn’t whether or not my future husband and I were going to be simpatico as religious defenders of the faith. It was important to me to marry a Catholic. That much I knew but beyond that I hadn’t a clue. Not surprising when the bride develops into the mom and begins little by little to take over all things religious for her children.

I made Sunday Mass a priority every week. Children need to realize the importance. Sports have hijacked the sanctity of Sunday. Times were when schools didn’t dare schedule games on the Sabbath. No one would show up. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, of reflection, a time when families come together – not when they spend most of their time in the car hopping from one event to the next with a drive-thru food run sandwiched in between. So what does the modern Catholic family choose? To disappoint Billy in the short run or to foster ideals in Billy that will hold him in good stead the rest of his life?

If at all feasible a Catholic education is the way to go. I wish a Catholic education didn’t cost so very much but it does. Much sacrifice is required for the average family but if it can be swung I feel the benefits far outweigh the financial hardship. In a Catholic school teachers and children live together holding Christ’s tenets at the forefront. Crucifixes and commandments adorn the walls; Jesus finds a place where He feels welcome. Dress codes do not violate the little darlings’ civil rights. Children learn respect for authority by following rules. They gain respect for their teachers, parents, and yes, for themselves and each other. This day-in day-out regimen from kindergarten through high school produces something which can’t be seen, but can be felt within the child. Catholic school instills a holy intangible in the child – a strengthening of the soul.

Every choice a parent makes for their children from the length of a daughter’s skirts, to resisting tattoos and piercings, affects the child. The wild ways in which children “express” themselves seem to be a huge cry for help – See me. Hear me. I want to be noticed at any cost. Do we notice our children? Do we notice them enough to say no? Our children won’t believe us until they are in our shoes, but the word “no” can be the truest form of parental love. This Valentine’s week think about that. As any mom or dad knows, it’s much more peaceful in the home when we say yes to kiddies through teenagers. Much more difficult to say no. Much more important to be strong enough to say no.

Know your children’s friends. Be visible. Know their friends’ parents and keep a lengthy list of phone numbers and addresses. Don’t trust that cell phone to tell you where your child is. Know the landline and cell numbers of the friends’ parents. As I mentioned in a previous column, your daughter could be calling you from Mexico on her cell phone. Never allow a child to walk out the door without knowing where they are going and with whom. Be active in your children’s lives but don’t allow their lives to consume yours. Strive to find that balance. It’s not easy. Kids act like they want to be in charge all the time, but they really don’t. They want their parents to be parents. They don’t need more friends. That’s the way Satan tries to sneak into their lives. Don’t play his game. Play God’s game. Be the loving father or mother, not the playmate or buddy.

Pray for your children every day. With each decade of the rosary I meditate on one of my children. His needs and wants, his worries, his future. I fill my mind with each child individually. My mind reminiscently wanders picturing my sons as babies remembering how one son called me Honey instead of Mommy, or watching another dear one run through a field capturing butterflies, a third catching the impossible football pass, and a fourth speeding around the track. Countless memories throughout the years. It’s beneficial to remember those times. Remembering reinforces that our children are not the enemy. It’s easy to forget that in the heat of teenager battles. Just remember that our children are the tangible evidence of our love.

Put simply, God is in heaven, Satan is in hell. And we Catholic parents are right here on this earth living in the same house as our children. Proximity matters. However many children we have, Satan wants them all. He persuades, he coaxes and ensnares. We, as caring, concerned Catholic parents, are the number one best defense against such a formidable opponent. We can thwart the enemy. We can recover inches, then feet of the slipping line. We can’t give Satan our children. We must hold on for dear life, for their dear lives. Whether those children are 5 or 25 we must never allow ourselves to drop that rope. Shore up the slack. Tug hard when circumstances require brute strength. Seek God’s help. Pray, pray, and pray some more seeking God’s help in every situation. We must never give up. We must clutch that rope no matter what happens, no matter if we’re sitting in the principal’s office or posting bail. No matter if we’ve just been told we’re going to be grandparents a little sooner than anticipated or that our child doesn’t have long to live. No matter what, our children need to know without a doubt that we are 100% for them, that we love them unconditionally. We can’t lose this fight. The stakes are too high.

Copyright 2012 Maureen Locher